Friday, 20 May 2011

Agricultural development

It seems the government has been persuaded that the current rules set out in Part 6 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO should be relaxed to some extent, so that development for agricultural purposes should become easier in future. The precise details are currently subject to consultation and the actual changes still lie in the future.

I am not sure that I agree with the proposition on which the proposed changes appear to be based; farmers can hardly complain of being tied up in red tape so far as the already fairly light regulation of agricultural development is concerned. I have never really felt that there was any justification for exempting agriculture from the planning system, especially since intensive farming methods, the proliferation of ‘prairie’ farming, the removal of hedges and copses and the erection of large tin sheds and silos, not to mention the establishment of extensive areas of polytunnels in fruit-growing areas, have all had a significant impact on the character and appearance of the countryside.

It seems to me that there is absolutely no reason why all building and engineering operations on agricultural land should not require express planning permission like any other built development, and I would scrap agricualtural Permitted Development rights altogether. It is true that the current rules set out in Part 6 are complex, in some cases ambiguous and in certain respects anomalous, but rather than tinkering with the GPDO (bearing in mind the mess the last government made of Part 1) it would be a great deal easier to scrap Part 6 altogether, and to subject agricultural development to the normal development control regime.

No doubt any such proposal would provoke screams of agony from the NFU, but it seems to me that farmers have had it far too much their own way over the past 60 years or more. The justification back then, in the wake of the Second World War, was the need to ensure the security of the nation’s home-grown food supplies, and no doubt the agricultural depression of the pre-war era was also a factor in the government’s thinking at that time. However, that is no excuse for what is now a thoroughly outdated ‘feather-bedding’ of the agricultural industry, especially when modern farming methods have a much increased capacity to impact on our environment.

No doubt townies like me will be told that we ‘don’t understand the countryside’, and that the ability of farmers to do exactly what they want, wherever and whenever they want is absolutely crucial to their economic survival and for the future of the countryside. I don’t believe it for one moment. It is high time they were brought fully into the planning system like everyone else.



  1. Another excellent piece and I agree with it entirely. The existing situation is ridiculously complex for what it acheives and provides far too much latitude for farmers.

  2. I know of a haulier/scrap merchant, with a commercial equine business, who bought what was once a farm, and has used G.P.D.O. in order to obtain three enormous ugly metal sheds. One for his commercial equine business. No business rates paid. Second shed for his haulage business. No business rates paid. Third shed for his maintenance on lorries and store for his very large horsebox. First two sheds were refused permission due to lack of agriculture, but upheld on appeal due to tractor and implements, which were necessary to maintain the land. The whole site has been developed for his haulage business. The fields are used for grazing horses in summer and the sheds used for overwintering and of course haulage and associated businesses. So much for caring for the countryside. Scandalous.

  3. The situation described by Patricia sounds like an abuse of the planning system. I am surprised the person in question got away with it. (Sounds like rather weak enforcement on the part of the LPA.) Removing PD rights for agricultural buildings and structures would certainly make it more difficult for people to exploit the loopholes, but may not be the whole answer to the sort of problem which Patricia has identified.

  4. The countryside is a place for rural businesses. It is not a dormitory for city dwellers. Food security is a very burning issue and is likely to become more so. China is attempting to buy up food businesses and create its own supply chain which will create higher prices for those unable to feed themselves - those very city dwellers- using the countryside as a dormitory is unsustainable in any sense. It is highly important that those who manage land, create food and businesses eminating from that land also live near their place of work.

  5. The comment above does not really answer the point. As matters stand at present, there is a generous planning regime for farmers, although planning permission is required if they wish to build a house in the open countryside. There are clear criteria for demonstrating a need to do so (currently found in PPS7). I don’t think that any proposed change in the regime, even my suggestion that PD rights under Part 6 should be removed so that all development on farms would require express planning permission, would interfere in any way with our ability to produce food. It would just mean that agricultural buildings would have to be well-designed and carefully located. The existing prior notification procedure under Part 6 does address this up to a point, but it would be better to require an application for express planning permission under s.57.

    In practice, the government seems to be heading in the opposite direction, although it remains to be seen what changes to the GPDO may emerge.

  6. Hi Martin,

    I am a small farmer with approx 30 acres of land. When a local farm of 150 acres came up for sale including dilpadated barns and home, it was purchased by a private developer who proceeded to destroy the farm and build a footballers wife's palace,, purchased for £1mill,, on sale for £10mill now and wll never get used as proper farm again.
    I ended up buying a smaller parcel of land with no buildings on and I'm in the process of becoming a profitable smalholding. On less than 30 acres, using what would be truly considered traditional, non-intensive techniques, I can make a profit to sustain myself, family and home. But this would never even get off the ground if I had to go through full planning process as just the amount of papaerwork, reports and assessments one would have to submit would create a major cost.
    By way of Part 6 I can submit the application myself so no expense on consultants (no offence intended :)). It alos allows me as an experienced farmer dictate what shoul be built and not impaired by planners, often ridiculous constraints.
    Most LPA's do not want development within the countryside, period. Sadly, and I truly do not like the term 'townies', but those of a less than rural nature do seem to be forever preserving, conserving and protecting the landscape from some kind of ruin by agricultural developments. You jump to say that farmers should fall in line with other planning but I respectfully must remind you that from the countryside come all manner of food and drink that most of the population want at as cheap a price as possible.
    Further restriciton on farming operations will only increase farm practices and thus increase food costs making the drive for cheaper imported food all the more likely, with the obvious results.
    Much as I admire your writings, I really have to suggest you take a closer look at all aspects of farming before casting such assertions to suggest farmers enjoy the 'lax' planning rules.
    Maybe I should kindly invite you to see my ongoing project to see if the enlightement would have you reconsider your position.
    With kind regards
    Lionel, Sussex